Saturday, May 21, 2016

Review: "Paradise City" by CJ Duggan

There’s trouble waiting in Paradise Quiet country-girl Lexie Atkinson is about to get an education she’ll never forget. Sent from her family’s remote rural property to live in the glittering beachside Paradise City for her final school year, she is plunged into a place where looks can kill and vicious rumours can make or break you. Lexie just wants to fly under the radar … until she meets Luke Ballantine. Impulsive and charming, one thing is clear: Luke is sexier than any guy she has ever known. Suddenly good girl Lexie is breaking all the rules –getting detention, sneaking out to late-night parties, hanging out with boys – and then rumours start swirling … about her! Everything changes fast and Lexie will soon find out if Luke Ballantine is going to be good for her . . . or very, very bad?

Thanks to Hachette Australia via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
There were things that I absolutely loved about this book, and others that rubbed me the wrong way, so overall I'm a bit conflicted.  Maybe I'll just break it down exactly like that:

Things I loved/liked:
  • The Aussie slang words!  My parents are Australian, and I'll always identify certain words with them, and those words in turn bring up memories of going to school, saying them in complete ignorance of anything out of the ordinary, and having kids look at me with a blank stare or straight out asking me what the heck I was talking about.  These are the ones I saw in this book that struck a chord with me immediately:
    • texta - we say felt pens here in Canada
    • fringe - we say "bangs", although to me, "fringe" makes more sense!
    • serviette - this is one my mom still uses.  Most people here would say "napkin".
    • knickers - haha! I mean, I know what they are, but I don't think I've ever once used this word!
    • lippy - we say "lipstick"
    • ute - honestly, we don't even really have "utes" here in Canada.  This is truck country, and the bigger, the better!
    • jumper - sweater, hoodie, cardigan maybe.  But "jumper" is usually only used in reference to cables. 
    • chips - I think in Australia, when they say "chips", they are referring to what we call "french fries".  We only call them chips when they're served with fish.  Why we don't call them "fish 'n' fries", I'll never know.
    • biro, doona, and bitumen - I actually had to look these ones up, I had no idea what the author was talking about!  Could be loosely translated as pen, duvet, and asphalt, 
    • "up the duff" - I had a vague idea of this one, and because of the context I probably could have guessed, but even so, it made me laugh!
  • Lexie's character was a lot of fun!  She was feisty, spontaneous, and bold - in other words, never a dull moment around her!
  • Some of the plot elements were really well done.  There were a few surprises that I didn't predict, and I always enjoy a bit of unpredictability.
Things I hated/didn't like:
  • My main issue was the pacing.  It felt very slow, with not a lot of action for the amount of pages there were.  The action that did occur was great, but it was interspersed with a lot of fluff that could be seriously edited down.
  • Some of the characters were lacking development, namely Lexie's cousin Amanda.  Her behaviour was erratic and for the most part unexplained.  Was she dealing with severe PMS? Did something traumatic happen in her childhood?  Did she have an undiagnosed mental illness?  I don't have a clue, but I think a bit of explanation would have gone a long way in her regard.
  • Likewise, Luke's character was not as well developed as I would have liked.  He was so hot and cold with Lexie, and even though some things were explained eventually, others were not.  I'd have to say I have mixed feeling when it comes to Luke Ballantine!
And then there was the sexual content.  Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily have a problem with this, it was just more detail than I was expecting from a book about high school kids.  In this regard, "Paradise City" was definitely geared towards a more mature reader, and reminded me of some of the New Adult titles I've read.  Younger readers (or parents with younger readers) should be forewarned!

So yeah, both good and bad things.  Not sure if I will continue the series, but at this point I'd say that yes, I would like to see what happens to Lexie and Luke, especially considering how things were left off - bit of a cliffy, folks!

My rating:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: "Defending Taylor" by Miranda Kenneally

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High. Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
If Miranda Kenneally was not one of my go-to authors before, she definitely has proven herself to be on that list after this latest effort! "Defending Taylor" was everything I crave in a contemporary young adult read.

Taylor, or Tee, as her friends and family call her, is a wonderful character. I love how she's made a pretty massive mistake but she's willing to pay the consequences. Hundred Oaks doesn't really welcome her with open arms, but she sucks it up and joins the soccer team and makes a sincere effort to make some new friends. She also comes up with some pretty scathing comebacks when people try to cut her down, and I absolutely adored that feisty side to her.

And then there's Ezra!  Le sigh...he is lovely!  Nobody writes male characters like Kenneally, and if you've ever fallen for any of her boys in the past, then no doubt you are going to love Ezra!  The only downside is that I wanted more.  As this book is written from Tee's point of view, we get an up close and personal look at the inner workings of her mind.  Unfortunately, we don't get the same perspective from Ezra, and I wanted to know more about his life and his thoughts and his family and...just everything!  Maybe one day, fingers crossed, Kenneally will give her fans a story from the male perspective.  That would be stellar!

What else can I say about this book?  Here are a bunch of things I liked/loved about this book:

  • There are some great female friendships displayed, previous and new to Tee.  
  • I loved the dynamics of Tee's new soccer team, and how Tee ended up leading by example for everyone, including her coach.  
  • The relationships Tee has with each individual family member are also explored, and I especially enjoyed the interactions she had with her dad. 
  • We also get a glimpse of some of the other characters from the Hundred Oaks series, but I'm not going to spoil it by telling you what they're all up to!
  • The way Kenneally wrote about the pressures Taylor was facing was just wonderful!  I remember what it was like to be a teen, wanting to do well in school and gymnastics, and feeling like I was letting people down if I didn't perform well, but I didn't have the media watching my every move or a senator for a father! The way this book is written, you will feel like you are walking in Taylor's shoes, even if you've never been a perfectionist or had the eyes of the whole world on you.
And that about sums up my gushing, at least until the next book in the series.  Wait, there's going to be another book, right?  Please, please, pretty please...

My rating:

Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: "Undertow" by Michael Buckley

Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen. Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
It is rather difficult for me to write a review of this book because while I enjoyed some aspects of it, overall it's just not really the book for me.  I ended up liking it more than I thought I would at the start, so that's something!

Here is what I liked and didn't like:  
  • I had a really hard time getting into this book at first.  In fact, I almost put it aside permanently, but around a quarter of the way in, things picked up and drew me in a bit more.  
  • I really liked Lyric's friendships with both Shadow and Bex.  On the other hand, I felt Fathom's character could have been developed more.
  • Some of the action scenes were super exciting!
  • Lyric was quite brave and a bit feisty, so that was enjoyable.  She also had a pretty decent relationship with her parents, which is somewhat unusual in YA fiction.  I enjoyed her dad's bad ass cop character, and her mom - well, let's just say there's a scene where her mom shows her true colours that had me cheering.
  • Unfortunately, the romance felt forced.
  • Also, the ending was over-the-top cheesy!
  • I still have lots of questions about things like the gauntlets, the different types of Alpha, the powers of those respective classes, and even why the Alpha came onshore in the first place. What did the other countries do with their Alpha, or did the Alpha only come ashore on Coney Island? I suppose I could reread the beginning to see if maybe I missed those details, but I probably won't.
I don't think I'll continue this series simply because the premise doesn't interest me.  The whole idea of creatures from the sea trying to mingle on land with humans is not my cup of tea, but if this concept tickles your fancy, by all means give "Undertow" a try.  There are some good characters and action scenes that you should enjoy.

My rating: